How we Balance Work, Family and Travel
“How do you find the time and money to travel so much while raising a baby?”
It’s a question we’ve been getting a lot recently from friends, colleagues and readers. Our answer is always the same – life balance.
We started this blog four years ago, before embarking on an extended trip around the world. Followers of our blog during that period were interested in the journey, tuning in each week to learn about a new destination or simply to find our where we were that day.
But this travel blog, like our life journey, has evolved.
Some readers of this blog are surprised to learn that we no longer live a nomadic lifestyle. That we have roots firmly planted in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.
But our adventure is still very much alive.
Baby B checking out the surf in the Mayan Riviera, Mexico
We now have a house that we love (and the wonderful mortgage that comes with it). We have careers that challenge us and, like most of you that work a traditional 9-5, we are required to be present in the office every day.
Sure, sometimes the corporate work routine gets tiring and repetitive, but that’s the sacrifice for being able to afford the lifestyle we choose. Babies aint cheap.
We’ve met a number of people, mostly travel bloggers and online entreprenuers, that have decided a life of perpetual travel is the best way to live their lives. We applaud them for having the courage to pursue a lifestyle less ordinary, one that fits their personal goals and passions. But, after living out of a backpack for over a year and sleeping in a new bed every few nights, we’ve learned that a lifestyle of perpetual travel is not for us.
We no longer wish to live out of a backpack indefinitely. We grew tired of not having money or a bed to call our own. Most importantly, we learned that travel is only one part of our life journey.
Baby B on a riverboat tour of Zurich, Switzerland
That brings us back to the question.
How do we balance work, family and travel?
Well, the good news for you fellow cubicle dwellers and full-time workers is that you don’t need to quit your job to travel the world. In our experience, the most common reasons people say they can’t travel are (1) not enough money, (2) not enough vacation time, and (3) too busy to travel.
First of all, if traveling IS important to you then these are just excuses.
If traveling is NOT important to you, then you should probably stop reading this post and watch this instead (it’s pretty funny).
Baby B’s first swim in the sparkling Caribbean
How we pay for travel.
You don’t need to be rich to travel, but you do need to have money – unless sleeping in filthy dorm rooms and eating canned beans is your idea of enjoyable travel.
When it comes to money, we don’t have a magical formula. We aren’t financially rich. We don’t have a trust fund. We didn’t win the lottery and we didn’t receive an inheritance.
We simply save and budget.
That might not be the answer you were hoping for, but the cold hard truth is that there is no silver bullet. We have learned to pay ourselves first and we avoid debt like the plague. We don’t wear designer clothes and we rarely eat at expensive restaurants (unless we’re traveling – then we go to town!). We simply limit our spending and make small sacrifices every day.
Aside from our day jobs, we earn money from our blogs and that money is saved and put directly towards future travels.
We work hard for this “extra money”. When most people finish work they go out and socialize or sit in front of the television. Not us. After Baby B goes to bed we open our laptops and start working again – writing, editing, emails, sharing, tweeting, liking, commenting.
Managing an online business is very time consuming, but we’re committed to its success and we enjoy tapping into our creative side. We work hard so we can play harder.
There are literally thousands of ways to increase your travel bank account, but the most important nugget of advice we have for you is to start saving today. As in RIGHT NOW!
When you get paid, set aside some money for your travel account first, before you pay your bills. This will force you to adjust your spending habits.
Here is some more helpful reading:
- How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
- The Ultimate Guide to Housesitting
- How to Budget for a Trip Around the World
Our little trio at a wine festival in Reil, Germany
How we use our vacation time.
When it comes to having enough vacation time, we simply plan our trips well in advance and take advantage of holidays. Cam gets 5 weeks of vacation time and Nicole gets 3 weeks plus Christmas holidays.
That might be more than some, but the number is not as important as the timing.
We almost always travel on, or around, holiday weekends. For example, our recent trip to Molokai was scheduled over the Easter long weekend. We departed on the Thursday evening and returned home on the red-eye flight on Tuesday evening, arriving super early on Wednesday morning. This gave us a 6 day trip but we only burned 1 vacation day (the Tuesday).
We do this for virtually every holiday weekend, stretching our vacation days and ultimately the number of travel experiences we can have each year.
Now, the flip side is that we often travel when other 9-5er’s travel, which can be more expensive. But that’s the trade off. Sacrifices must be made.
Even though we both work corporate jobs and have a baby, we still travel at least once a month. Baby B has visited 6 countries in his young life, proving that travel doesn’t have to stop when you have a family and career.
Baby B and Dad at the Louvre Museum in Paris
Nicole also earns overtime hours that she banks and converts into vacation days. She hosts information sessions, attends networking events and sometimes visits with candidates outside of normal work hours. At the end of the year she typically accumulates an additional 2 weeks of vacation days in lieu of pay. Work hard, play hard.
Aside from that, we took advantage of Nicole being on maternity leave last summer when we traveled to Europe (Canadians get up to 12 months maternity leave). Because Cam gets more vacation days, we banked his days and used them for an extended trip to Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and France.
We will likely do the same thing next year when Baby #2 arrives.
You can travel with limited vacation days.
Take weekend trips or short trips that require limited travel time and few time-zone changes. You don’t have to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or go on an African safari to have a rewarding travel experience.
Often times a trip close to home will scratch that travel itch just fine. In the past two months we visited Whistler, Parksville and Victoria, all short trips from Vancouver, but all are world class destinations with very different things to offer.
In a few weeks we will visit Los Angeles for the first time, another destination that’s only a short flight from Vancouver, with no time zone changes. We will be there for 5 days, but will only burn 2 vacation days because we will be visiting over a holiday weekend.
If you’re doing the math, that’s only 3 vacation days used while going on 5 trips (Hawaii, Los Angeles, Whistler, Parksville and Victoria). Not bad, right?
Baby B’s first international trip to California – 3 months old
Balance can only be achieved with sacrifice.
When it comes to balancing family and travel, our solution is simple – we bring our baby boy everywhere. It’s not the easiest way to travel, but we value our time together and do not want to spend our limited vacation time apart.
Our priority is to experience life as a family, which means sharing a hotel room with a cranky baby and trading late night partying for early morning visits to the park.
But it’s so worth it.
We can’t travel together as a family without sacrificing the “old way of traveling before baby”. And we can’t support our family and afford the lifestyle we choose without sacrificing the freedom to travel whenever we want.
We feel it’s a fair trade.
Baby B roaming the streets of Strasbourg, France
These last two years have been extremely rewarding.
We initially thought that going back to the corporate world would be impossible. We thought those days were long behind us and that we’d never be able to go back.
Never say never, right?
Long term travel has forever changed us. We are not the same people we were before, and we are forever grateful for that. But something very cool happened when we slipped back into normal life – we reignited our love of travel.
It’s not that we lost our passion for travel, far from it, but long term travel became our new norm. It lost some of its sparkle. We found ourselves longing for a simple night on the couch watching a movie instead of searching for adventure. The grass is always greener, I suppose.
This new perspective on life has given us an appreciation for the travel experiences we have together. The excitement of dreaming and planning has returned. The stomach butterflies have returned.
We look forward to staying at nice hotels and eating at fancy restaurants, something we found challenging when we were living on a backpacker’s shoestring budget.
We’ve been able to have a family, find great corporate jobs and introduce our little man to 6 countries in his first year of life – and we think that’s pretty awesome! We’re proving to ourselves, and other young families, that it can be done.
It hasn’t been easy balancing work, baby, blog and travel – and there are certainly times when we want to run away to a remote island in the South Pacific – but we feel very fortunate to have found balance.
What about you? How do you balance work, family and travel?
Share your tips and tricks in the comments section below, we’d love to read them!